One of the bright spots during the COVID-19 pandemic is that more and more older adults are opening their doors to a rescued pet. For seniors, it’s a win-win – they have a companion to get them through ongoing social isolation, and a dog or cat gets a loving home.
Researchers have found that 80 percent of pet owners say their furry friends make them feel less lonely, and older adults report a greater feeling of social connectedness and overall well-being with a pet in the house.
If your loved one is considering welcoming a new member to the family, it’s important to keep a few considerations in mind to ensure a healthy, happy relationship that benefits both the pet and the pet owner.
The advantages of pet ownership for seniors can’t be ignored, especially during this time of isolation. In addition to much-needed companionship, bringing a new pet home can help seniors stick to routines, find purpose in their day, and help them stay physically and mentally active—all of which improve their overall health and well-being. If the senior in your life is currently homebound and is receiving care from AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis, give us a call at 314-692-0020, and we can help you determine if a fluffy or furry family member would benefit them.
During this time of social isolation, seniors’ computers, smartphones and home phones are their safe connections to friends and family. Unfortunately, these same technologies can open the door to uninvited guests who don’t have their best interests at heart.
Protecting seniors from threats in the online world is important. Older adults lose almost $3 billion to scammers and hackers each year. With seniors’ loneliness and their dependency on technology only increasing during the pandemic, hackers are taking advantage of older adults’ time on the web and their desire for human connection to steal their hard-earned money.
If you have an older adult in your life who may be susceptible to online scams, it’s important to be diligent in your own education of current threats and help your loved one stand up to those willing to steal their trust and their money.
Be Aware of These Threats
Scammers and hackers are master manipulators and amateur psychologists. They know exactly how to play to elderly adults’ emotions, worries and concerns, and they develop strategies that capitalize on what will get the fastest reaction and the largest payout from victims.
Get-rich-quick schemes – For seniors already on limited incomes, the promise of additional money can be too good to pass up. Scammers may tell a senior they won a sweepstakes and request a small handling fee so that the older adult can claim their prize.
Threats and impersonation – A caller may pretend to be a government or IRS official requesting a back-tax payment or a medical biller insisting a charge be paid on the spot to avoid reporting the senior to collections. Scammers may request the victim’s credit card number, Social Security number or bank account numbers, and because these “official” threats come at older adults so fast and demanding, they feel obligated to respond.
Technology frauds – By pretending to be a representative from a senior’s email provider or computer company, scammers can convince an older adult to provide access to their accounts so they can “fix” a problem with their computer. Once they have access, they can install malware, sneak into your loved one’s financial accounts, and hack into their social media.
Phishing emails – Scammers are skilled at making fake emails from familiar companies appear legit. For instance, they can pretend to be a bank requesting a senior’s username and password to update their account information.
Dating scams – Online dating continues to grow among seniors. Within the past year, 29% of seniors reported going on a date with someone they met on a dating website. Fraud occurs when a scammer who pledges their love requests financial help from their companion—it’s especially problematic when a lonely senior has never met their beloved in person.
How you can protect and empower the senior in your life
Every year, up to three million seniors are the victims of an online scam or hack, but only one in 44 ever tell anyone out of embarrassment or fear. But the reality is, almost all of us—at any age—have been defrauded at some time in our lives. Fifty-six percent of adults have been at the losing end of fraud, and 54 percent of us have had our accounts hacked.
By helping your loved one understand scams and hacks can happen to anyone, you can prepare them to be on the watch for fraud, and if it does occur, to be open about their experience and find a way to fight back.
What are some of the ways you can help your loved one?
Go over financial accounts together. Ask your loved one if you can sit alongside them as they check their financial statements each month to identify any unusual activity. Remind them not to give their account information to anyone unless they initiate the first contact. It’s also a good idea to have them monitor their credit ratings for unusual activity at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Reinforce that it’s OK to be rude. Seniors are often willing victims because it’s hard to say no, especially if someone is asking for something so nicely—or if they come at them with a threat. It’s their right to hang up on an unsolicited call or delete an email if they have a bad feeling in their gut. If the solicitor insists on payment, encourage your loved one to ask them to send their request in writing and stop the conversation immediately.
Teach them to spot phishing emails. Warning signs like misspellings, asking for account information or jumbled addresses in the “From” line can all signal that an email from a company your loved one trusts isn’t legit. In addition, stress to them not to click on links or open attachments from an unsolicited email. For examples of phishing emails, visit the National Cybersecurity Alliance website together for more details.
Help them protect their identity. Encourage your loved one to shred paperwork with their account numbers. Assist them in signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry, opting out of credit and insurance mail solicitations at OptOutPrescreen.com, and redirecting their mailed checks to direct deposit to prevent mailbox theft.
Stay connected! The biggest risk factor for scams, fraud and hacking is loneliness. With social isolation still recommended for seniors during COVID-19, they need socialization more than ever. Talk to your loved one on a regular basis, and while visiting, keep them updated about online threats targeting seniors. The AARP Scam-Tracking Map spotlights current scams and provides older adults an option to submit a report if they’ve been targeted.
If you’re concerned about your senior falling victim to a scam, and they’re receiving services from AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis, please give us a call at 314-692-0020. Our nurses and aides can keep an eye out for possible warning signs and remind your senior about the steps they can take to protect themselves online.
To stay in touch with friends and family during the COVID-19 lockdown, many older adults have evolved into tech-savvy seniors. With just a few clicks of a mouse, you can meet up with friends on Zoom, chat with your grandkids on Face Time, or reconnect with long-lost friends on Facebook and Instagram.
Unfortunately, with the recent uptick in COVID cases, especially in Missouri, it appears we’ll be homebound a little longer, relying on the online social scene we’ve built through our laptops and tablets. As we continue to wait out this pandemic, why not elevate your technology time to discover new hobbies, accomplish a lifelong goal, or best of all, expand your social circle to include other people who are also confined to home?
Here are just a few ways to connect with others over the next few months:
Although the Internet keeps us connected like never before, it doesn’t mean we still don’t ache for in-person contact with those we love. If you feel overwhelming feelings of loneliness, loss or depression, contact the team at AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis at 314-692-0020, and we can refer you to a therapist who specializes in working with seniors. Or, use an online counseling app like Talkspace or BetterHelp that can connect you to a therapist anywhere in the world, any time of day.
Struggling to communicate with loved ones or feeling a special memory slip away can be frustrating, if not devastating, for a senior with early-onset dementia or other cognitive issues. If an older adult is unable to clearly express their thoughts and emotions, they can quickly sink into a depression.
However, with a paintbrush in hand and a watercolor palette before them, older adults from across St. Louis are discovering creative ways to reduce the effects of cognitive decline. Through art programs at senior living facilities, like those offered by the professional artists of Artfully Aging, seniors are telling their stories and widening their social circles.
“Studies have shown that when seniors have a creative outlet, they experience better health outcomes, are more relaxed, require fewer medications, and boost their mental health,” said Mary Beth Flynn, founder of Artfully Aging and a therapeutic art specialist.
Why a paintbrush is a key therapy tool
In many cases, dementia first affects the front temporal lobes of the brain, and if that nerve damage is localized on the left side—the region where we produce and comprehend language—it alters our ability to verbalize and impacts our behavior. We struggle to organize our words logically or lose our train of thought.
On the other hand, art and music engage those regions unaffected or minimally affected by the disease, allowing seniors to communicate in unexpected ways. Seniors who attend art classes have been found to exhibit enhanced clarity, recall cherished memories, and feel greater control over their environment. Not to mention, they also strengthen their fine motor skills and improve their hand-brain coordination. Said one researcher with the University of California, “While brains inevitably age, creative abilities do not necessarily deteriorate. Actually, the aging brain responds well to art by allowing the brain’s two hemispheres to work more in tandem.”
Like the art teachers that you may remember from your younger years, Flynn guides her art class with a prompt—for instance, a watercolor landscape or still life she encourages her students to recreate. But in her class, the art itself is just the vehicle to help seniors communicate. During the hour together, Flynn incorporates sensory and imagery exercises to engage all areas of the brain. For instance, if the class paints a wintertime scene, they may sing holiday songs from their youth, imagine the sounds and smells as they crunch through the snow, and picture who they are taking a walk with.
“That’s where the entire project dovetails,” Flynn says. “Seniors forget about their worries, and just enjoy the experience and the memories art brings up. I always tell them, the more they relax and enjoy themselves, the more beautiful their painting will be. And it’s really true—every painting looks different depending on each person’s experience, and each one is beautiful. It’s just amazing.”
“Plus,” she adds, “Seniors really feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they see what they’ve painted. They can’t wait to bring out their new works to show their families at each visit.”
Artfully Aging currently works with senior communities in the St. Louis region, Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois, although classes are temporarily on hold due to COVID-19. In the meantime, Flynn is also developing virtual senior art programs and instructional videos for seniors receiving home health services and the senior community at large, which will be available soon through her website. For more information, visit www.artfullyaging.com.
Heading into retirement is one of the most exciting times of your life—when you can finally escape the daily grind and enjoy the freedom to travel, relax, and spend time with family and friends. Unfortunately, it can also be nerve-wracking once you start crunching the numbers to determine if you can actually afford your dream version of the golden years.
To plan for any financial scenario in your future, the best thing you can do is partner with an elder law attorney today. With experience in estate planning, knowledge of retirement benefits, and connections in the senior living industry, an elder law attorney can help you determine the best route to take no matter where your retirement journey leads you.
Why choose an elder law attorney?
Many seniors turn to lawyers for one thing—to craft or update their wills (will link to estate planning blog). However, a will is just one step in a comprehensive financial plan. Because they specialize in working with older adults, elder law attorneys understand the laws that specifically affect a senior’s financial security, including those related to healthcare, Medicare and Medicaid, and long-term care.
Just a few of the services an elder law attorney offers include:
Finding the right lawyer for you
Make sure you have the right plan in place to meet your financial goals over the next few decades! To find an elder law attorney who has your best interests in mind, ask your healthcare provider, tax accountant, or financial planner for a recommendation. You can also check out professional organizations like the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys or the National Elder Law Foundation online to search for a lawyer in St. Louis who specializes in the needs of seniors and their families.
After working hard and saving smart for decades, the last thing you want is someone telling you what to do with your money—even after you pass away. If you don’t have a will in place, or if you have one but haven’t updated it since your firstborn was in diapers, control of your assets can land in the hands of probate court instead of your loved ones, preventing your family members from accessing the financial security they need to move forward.
Unfortunately, only 18 percent of seniors over age 55 have a legacy plan, including a will and healthcare directive, in place. To stand out from the status quo and protect your assets for years to come, it’s critical that you focus on your estate planning as soon as possible. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
If you haven’t started your estate plan, it’s not too late. Consider meeting first with a financial planner to establish where you currently stand financially, and then working with an estate attorney to determine how your assets will be controlled moving forward. By putting in the work today, you can save your family the stress and heartache of a court battle in the event of the unexpected.
If you’re a baby boomer and starting to look toward your retirement, the view is much different than it was for your parents.
The dream of retiring at age 65, benefiting from Social Security and relaxing through your golden years after decades of hard work is no longer a reality for many seniors. The reasons for the change are both good and bad.
On a positive note, Americans are living longer than ever, with more years to spend with family and on the activities they love. At the same time, healthcare and long-term care costs are skyrocketing, the retirement age keeps getting pushed higher, and the country is starting to settle into a recession. In fact, the intersection between longer life expectancy and reduced benefits means that a couple who retires at 65 with $1 million saved has a 72 percent chance of running out of money before they pass away.
As you begin to look toward the future, it’s important to address the biggest financial questions today’s boomers have to face.
How long should I expect to work? Currently, for those born after 1955, the age you can begin receiving full retirement benefits is 66 years and two months. For those born after 1960, that age is slowly creeping up to 67. However, many employees are already working beyond 65 because 1) they enjoy their job, or more likely, 2) they can’t afford to retire. In one study, 40 percent of baby boomers surveyed said they planned to work until they die because of financial constraints.
Many advisors suggest waiting until age 70 to retire or to claim Social Security benefits in order to receive the maximum possible benefit. Or, if you do retire from a full-time job, you may want to consider a consulting position or part-time job to cushion your income.
How much do I have saved? On average, a single retiree can expect to receive $14,000 in Social Security benefits each year, which if you lived on as your only source of income, would put you just slightly above the federal poverty level. Unfortunately, 45 percent of boomers have not put anything back to supplement their benefits. If you do not have a 401(K), IRA or, for the very lucky few, a company-based pension plan, consider making saving for retirement your top priority. If you start putting $500 a month into an investment account at age 50, you could retire at 65 with $145,000 in the bank.
How much should I expect to live on in my retirement years? Any strong financial plan starts with a detailed budget. Provide your retirement planner with all of your expenditures for the month, including housing, cars, utilities, and credit card payments. From there, you can work together to see how far your estimated retirement savings and Social Security payments will stretch for the next 20 years. When you have a solid picture in mind, you can start making smarter choices for your future, whether that means paying off debt before you retire, downsizing your home for something more affordable, or putting more money into your IRA.
How will my health impact my retirement? In a study by Merrill Lynch, Americans over age 50 said paying for healthcare costs in retirement was their greatest financial concern—even among the wealthy. One way to maximize your healthcare coverage is to stay on your employer’s plan for as long as you can, even if you have to work an extra two or three years.
In addition, while many healthcare services are covered under Medicare A, which is available to all seniors, you may need to also look at opting into Part B, which covers doctor visits and outpatient care with an additional premium, and Medicare Part C private insurance plans that assist with vision, dental and prescriptions. However, the best way to avoid unexpected healthcare costs down the road is to start living your healthiest lifestyle today—get regular check-ups, eat a healthy diet and slip in daily exercise whenever you can.
How will I pay for long-term care when I need it? While Medicare Part A will help cover some, and Medicare Advantage will assist with non-medical home care, Medicare does not pay for room and board or personal care in an assisted living facility. Long-term insurance can be a financial lifesaver in the event you need to be placed in extended care due to aging, injury or illness. Most long-term care policies have some home health coverage. In fact, many of the individuals we serve are able to use their long-term care policy with AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis. Once you get past the age of 60, finding a long-term care policy can become extremely difficult and expensive, so it’s essential to enroll in a plan early.
As always, the best way to determine your future financial health is to discuss your goals with a St. Louis retirement planner. Whether you want to travel the world, spend your days volunteering in your community or simply want to relax in the home you love, they can help you build a plan that takes into account all of the factors that may impact your financial security.
We’ve all been a little on edge lately. Between COVID-19, a heated political landscape and an economic downturn, we’ve turned to friendships and self-care to cope with the unknown and settle those butterflies we feel every time we turn on the TV.
For older adults who are both homebound and socially isolated due to the continued risk of COVID-19, that constant state of worry paired with the effects of aging and chronic health conditions can cause anxiety to skyrocket if they don’t have coping mechanisms in place. By the end of April 2020, three in five Americans were still scared they would contract the virus, and 16 percent of people over age 55 were “very scared” of the disease.
With more than two million seniors suffering from anxiety and depression each year, diagnosis and treatment are more important than ever before. As friends and family members, you play a key role in identifying signs of mental health issues and connecting your loved one to the care they need.
What is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?
Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but when someone’s anxiety and worry over things they can’t control interfere with their daily activities over a long period of time, it often signals the person is suffering from GAD. When left untreated, anxiety can lead to higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, panic attacks, self-harm, and severe depression.
While anxiety is often genetic or caused by trauma, other factors can increase a senior’s risk of the condition:
How you can help your loved one manage their anxiety
Anxiety can manifest itself in your loved one in a variety of ways, from excessive worry about their safety and the avoidance of social situations to hoarding and a preoccupation with routines. If you notice temporary worries escalate into long-term obsessions, it’s important to address them immediately.
The importance of mental health care for seniors
As overwhelming as anxiety can feel, for many seniors, it’s temporary with the right treatment. Research has found that when they have support, seniors show incredible resilience and an ability to regulate their reactions to stress. For older adults who are homebound, a home health care service like AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis can help family members identify risk factors and signs of anxiety in seniors, as well as connect them to medical providers who can help. To learn more about our services, contact us today at 314-692-0020.
Most seniors want to stay in the home they love for as long as possible. However, as you grow older and face mobility issues, maintaining your house—or even navigating around it comfortably—can become extremely difficult.
By making the move to a senior living community in St. Louis or St. Charles, you can hold on to your independence longer without the hassle of daily housekeeping and yardwork that come with home ownership. Once you take those endless responsibilities off your plate, you have more time to enjoy your favorite activities and an active social life! And just as important, your family can stop worrying about your safety when you’re alone.
If you’re thinking about transitioning to an independent living facility, here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if now’s the right time:
In many cases, with a few home modifications, personal safety measures, and help from a professional caregiver, many seniors can continue to live comfortably in their homes. For those who want to put the burdens of home ownership behind them, AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis can provide the continued care you’ve come to trust at your new independent living residence.
Navigating a new smartphone can be tricky for even the savviest of tech lovers. For seniors who haven’t used a computer in years or whose calls have been limited to a flip phone for the past decade, the learning curve can often feel too steep to handle.
Getting over that fear, however, can set a senior on the road toward greater independence and ease their family’s worries about their health and safety. With a smartphone in hand, a senior can:
According to AARP, 62 percent of individuals over age 70 have made the shift to smartphones, but many still struggle with using them. A study from the University of California San Diego found, “Frustration appeared to be a significant barrier, which led to a lack of self-confidence and motivation to pursue using the technology.”
Helping a senior who struggles with their smartphone
As family members, we can help the seniors in our life overcome their fears of their smartphone with just a few simple steps and a little extra patience.
With everything your parents taught you as you grew up, teaching them how to take advantage of smartphone technology to stay better connected with family is one way you can return the favor. Just remember to remain calm and patient during the process. No one learns new technology in one day, but by being ready to address your loved one’s issues and answer their questions, you can make this new adventure easier for everyone.